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What Does it Mean to Say the Son of God is 'Consubstantial' with the Father? New Insights about Augustine's Debt to Aristotle

Feb 16 2017 4:30—6pm
Harper Memorial Library 130
1116 East 59th Street
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Sarah Byers

Boston College

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Cosponsored by the Department of Philosophy

It is commonly accepted that Aristotelian ideas did not inform Latin-language metaphysics until the translation of Aristotle in the 12th century. However, this opinion has arisen from a failure to understand how the metaphysics of Augustine fundamentally depends upon Victorinus’ assimilation of Aristotelian concepts and distinctions

Victorinus, mentioned by Augustine in Confessions Book 7, was a Christian convert, an eminent rhetor, and one of the last philosophers in the western Roman Empire who was fully bilingual in Greek and Latin.  In the 350's he wrote metaphysical treatises defending the Council of Nicea's doctrine that the Son of God is 'consubstantial' with the Father. These treatises comment upon and assimilate core concepts of Aristotle’s Metaphysics and On the Soul.  Augustine appropriated these Aristotelian ideas from Victorinus.

Prof. Byers will also lead a master class on "Augustine on Human Freedom and Divine Grace" on Friday, February 17.


Sarah Catherine Byers is an associate professor in the philosophy department at Boston College.  She is the author of the monograph Perception, Sensibility, and Moral Motivation in Augustine: A Stoic-Platonic Synthesis (Cambridge University Press: 2013) and of articles in the Journal of the History of Philosophy, the Cambridge History of Moral Philosophy, the Routledge Handbook of the Stoic TraditionA Companion to Augustine (Wiley-Blackwell), and Augustine's City of God: A Critical Guide (Cambridge Critical Guides).